Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. issued a formal statement today acknowledging that he had misstated several facts about his past last April in a campaign appearance in New Hampshire.
But the Delaware Democrat insisted today, as he had Sunday night in an interview with The New York Times, that some of the disputed statements were true and that his misstatements were the product of a faulty memory and the fact that he lost his temper.
Mr. Biden, whose Presidential campaign has been shaken by news reports about his unattributed use of speeches from other politicians and a plagiarism incident while he was in law school, said in The Times interview that he was ‘’frustrated’’ and ‘’angry as hell’’ over the reports.
Mr. Biden was going through his political agony even as he presided over hearings tonight on the confirmation of Judge Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court. Exhausted top aides found their attention constantly torn between the crucial hearings and their principal’s political future. Intends to Stay in Race
Late tonight, for example, Mr. Biden called a meeting of his senior staff to discuss the effects of the recent developments on his campaign. But senior aides said they did not know if it would even take place as the Bork hearings dragged into the night. Although a high-level aide denied that Mr. Biden was contemplating withdrawing from the race, several Washington politicians here said they believed he was considering this possibility.
On Sunday night, Mr. Biden said emphatically that he intended to remain a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination. ‘’I think if I can get by the next week, I can pull out of this if I can just get my story across,’’ he said.
Most of Mr. Biden’s statement was in response to a report in this week’s issue of Newsweek magazine on a tape recording made by the C-SPAN network of an appearance by Mr. Biden at a home in Claremont, N.H., on April 3. It was a typical coffee-klatch style appearance before a small group. The network regularly records and broadcasts such events as part of its coverage of the Presidential campaign.
The tape, which was made available by C-SPAN in response to a reporter’s request, showed a testy exchange in response to a question about his law school record from a man identified only as ‘’Frank.’’ Mr. Biden looked at his questioner and said: ‘’I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do.’’
He then went on to say that he ‘’went to law school on a full academic scholarship – the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship,’’ Mr. Biden said. He also said that he ‘’ended up in the top half’’ of his class and won a prize in an international moot court competition. In college, Mr. Biden said in the appearance, he was ‘’the outstanding student in the political science department’’ and ‘’graduated with three degrees from college.’’ Comments on Assertions
In his statement today, Mr. Biden, who attended the Syracuse College of Law and graduated 76th in a class of 85, acknowledged: ‘’I did not graduate in the top half of my class at law school and my recollection of this was inacurate.’’
As for receiving three degrees, Mr. Biden said: ‘’I graduated from the University of Delaware with a double major in history and political science. My reference to degrees at the Claremont event was intended to refer to these majors – I said ‘three’ and should have said ‘two.’ ‘’ Mr. Biden received a single B.A. in history and political science.
’’With regard to my being the outstanding student in the political science department,’’ the statement went on. ‘’My name was put up for that award by David Ingersoll, who is still at the University of Delaware.’’
In the Sunday interview, Mr. Biden said of his claim that he went to school on full academic scholarship: ‘’My recollection is – and I’d have to confirm this – but I don’t recall paying any money to go to law school.’’ Newsweek said Mr. Biden had gone to Syracuse ‘’on half scholarship based on financial need.’’ Says He Also Received Grant
In his statement today, Mr. Biden did not directly dispute this, but said he received a scholarship from the Syracuse University College of Law ‘’based in part on academics’’ as well as a grant from the Higher Education Scholarship Fund of the state of Delaware. He said the law school ‘’arranged for my first year’s room and board by placing me as an assitant resident adviser in the undergraduate school.’’
As for the moot court competition, Mr. Biden said he had won such a competition, with a partner, in Kingston, Ontario, on Dec. 12, 1967.
Mr. Biden acknowledged that in the testy exchange in New Hampshire, he had lost his temper. ‘’I exaggerate when I’m angry,’’ Mr. Biden said, ‘’but I’ve never gone around telling people things that aren’t true about me.’’ Mr. Biden’s questioner had made the query in a mild tone, but provoked an explosive response from Mr. Biden. ‘Legitimate Questions of Press’
As for the continued, minute probing of his past, Mr. Biden told The Times: ‘’I guess every single word I’ve ever said is going to be dissected now.’’
In his statement today Mr. Biden acknowledged that inevitability, saying:
’’However trivial, I certainly believe these are legitimate questions of press inquiry. And I will be as responsive to these and other inquiries as I possibly can.’’
Mr. Biden’s campaign staff met this weekend in Wilmington, Del., in an effort to come up with a strategy in face of the building controversy. A senior adviser to the Biden campaign dismissed speculatrion that he would withdraw from the contest. ‘’Of course he’s going to stay in,’’ the adviser said, dismissing the recent reports on Mr. Biden as ‘’random press frenzy.’’
The adviser said the latest troubles might ‘’free’’ Mr. Biden to ‘’get into being himself’’ and to campaign as an aggressive ‘’populist, anti-Establishment’’ candidate and a defender of the interests of the American middle class.